Government stands firm in Pacquiao tax spat
MANILA, Philippines—World boxing champion Manny Pacquiao’s iconic status in the Philippines will not spare him from the tax man, the government said Tuesday, but denied it was harassing the multi-millionaire sportsman.
The eight-time world champion, who is also a member of Congress, faces a criminal case for obstructing a tax investigation into his earnings, in a case that he says has cost him millions of dollars in endorsements.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said the government was only doing its job in demanding that Pacquiao, one of the world’s highest-paid sportsmen, submit records of his earnings to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
Pacquiao on Monday vowed to fight the case in court and accused the BIR of singling him out for harassment, without saying why he was being targeted, but the finance secretary denied this was the case.
“I don’t think the BIR will dare to harass an eight-time world champion. He is a national icon,” Purisima, whose department oversees the bureau, told reporters.
“We love Mr. Pacquiao, we respect Mr. Pacquiao… but at the same time, we have a duty to make sure we review everyone’s income tax return and I don’t think congressman Pacquiao should take this personally,” Purisima added.
The bureau last month filed a criminal case against Pacquiao for failing to submit proper documents about his earnings from boxing matches and his numerous commercial endorsements.
If found guilty, he could face up to two years in jail but bureau officials had said that the matter could be easily resolved if Pacquiao submitted the proper documents.
Pacquiao’s tax problems are the latest colorful event in his career, which he hinted last week was nearing an end because God had told him to retire soon.
Seen as the world’s best pound for pound boxer, Pacquiao declared assets at the end of 2010 at P1.13 billion ($26.3 million) and no liabilities, making him the country’s wealthiest member of Congress.
Forbes.com magazine estimated he spent $7 million in his election campaign in 2010 while also earning $35 million for his two fights against Joshua Clottey and Miguel Cotto.
Pacquiao, who has a 54-3 win-loss record with two draws, stakes his World Boxing Organization welterweight crown against undefeated American Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas on June 9.